A few years ago I read Alain de Botton‘s “Status Anxiety“. I found de Botton’s writing to be fascinating, but difficult. He is a well-educated Swiss Gen X’er (born 1961-1981) and many of his references were to literature I was not familiar with. Even so, it was clear that he had thought long and hard about the nature of status in our society, and he had done so from a uniquely Gen X viewpoint.
I just came upon this wonderful talk that Alain gave at TED this year:
I particularly like his take at the very end of the talk about what makes a good father. He talks about the need for fathers (and father/heroic figures) in society to be “tough but kind”. His description fits with the view of many Gen X fathers I know: they don’t want the permissiveness of their parent’s generation (Silents, born 1924-1942 and Boomers, born 1943-1960), but also want to avoid the strict disciplinarian attitude of earlier generations. Is this possible? I don’t know, but that seems to be the ideal that Generation X strives for.
de Botton’s take on the nature of success bears a strong resemblance to that of another Gen X TEDster: Elizabeth Gilbert. Her talk about the nature of creativity contained many similar ideas about where success is truly derived. I see a Gen X philosophy being discussed more regularly, with a much more balanced and positive take now that we are reaching middle age. Perhaps it is time for older generations (Boomers in particular) to listen to what the individualistic Gen X’ers have to say about the direction of society. Just because we are cynical does not mean we don’t have any ideals.